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CEO indicates Bears will apply franchise tag to Forte if necessary

Chicago Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips implied Tuesday that the club would place the franchise tag on running back Matt Forte if the two sides can't work out a long-term deal.

"We'd like to (work out a long-term deal with Forte)," Phillips told ESPN 1000 radio in Chicago. "But as (new Bears general manager Phil Emery) pointed out, we obviously will at least consider placing the franchise tag on him. We don't have any intention of letting Matt hit the open market. We'll sit down with him privately, Phil will, and discuss what the plans are prior to the Feb. 20 franchise tag date."

Forte, who played in his first Pro Bowl Sunday, missed the final four games of the regular season with a sprained right knee ligament. He still rushed for 997 yards, caught 52 passes for another 490 yards and averaged a career-high 4.9 yards per carry.

Forte told ESPN 1000 on Jan. 19 that he might balk if the Bears place the franchise tag on him. "I wouldn't say holdout, but people probably wouldn't know where I was," he said.

Emery didn't want to comment on the Forte negotiations at his introductory news conference Monday, but Phillips said the new GM will have the same authority as the departed Jerry Angelo with regard to making final decisions on players and coaches. That includes head coach Lovie Smith.

"We feel Lovie is a top coach and obviously you read everything that has been written and fans want wins. And so do we," Phillips said. "It was a tough decision to let go of Jerry, but I think it was time to have a new fresh look at our team and how it gets built. But Lovie has never lost the respect of the players. He's kept them playing hard. He's got a good coaching staff and we think he can be successful.

"That's the whole goal, to make him successful, not to make him unsuccessful. The goal of bringing a GM in here is to make the club successful. What we want to have happen is Lovie Smith has a contract extension after this season because he's doing a hell of a job."

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